Grappling for Gold: Wrestler Matt Gentry
Photo: Kyle Terada/Stanfordphoto.com
By Sam Scott
Canadian Matt Gentry, '04, qualified for the 2012 Olympics when he captured gold at the Pam Am Olympic Qualification tournament. The former Stanford NCAA champion and Cardinal men’s wrestling assistant coach competes in the men’s freestyle 74kg on August 10. This is his second Olympics.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, you finished 18th in the men’s freestyle. How has that experience shaped your preparation for London?
In 2008, I had a lot of anxiety and put a lot of pressure on myself. I think just going through it and knowing what to expect has helped me a lot. This time around I have so much more excitement and enthusiasm for the competition. I can't wait for August 10!
What’s your dream for London?
Win a medal.
You recently medaled in tournaments in Bulgaria, Georgia, Mexico and Turkey. How much travel do you have to do to stay at the top of your game?
I spend more time living out of a suitcase than I do living at home because I don't have an ideal training situation, so I have to go on the road not only for competitions but also for training purposes. Right now [June 2012] I am on my fifth straight week of training on the road, but I've been able to go home on the weekends to rest and recover.
Do you have a “day job?”
I was an assistant coach with the wrestling program at Stanford until the fall of 2010. Since then, I have focused exclusively on reaching my podium goals at the Olympics.
You step on the mat near the end of the Games. How will you spend the early part of the Games?
We actually leave the Olympic Village the day after the Opening Ceremonies and go to a University a few hours outside of London so we can focus on our last bit of training and taper until right before our competition, so I may not get a chance to see many events. I would love to go see some track and field events, especially if I get a chance to cheer on my former Stanford classmate Jill Camarena-Williams, ’04, when she competes in shot put.
The freestyle gold medal winner will have to win several matches in just a few hours. Sounds grueling. How do you psyche up for it?
It's actually four matches in about four hours, then a short break before the finals. The first four matches will determine the medalists (just not which order) so that is very important. [You prepare with] a lot of physical and mental training. Wrestling is such an intense sport, the key to winning is always a combination of skill and stamina, but stamina starts playing a bigger role later in the tournament (quarterfinals and semifinals). By the time August 10 arrives, I will be in the best shape of my life.
Besides competing, what are you most looking forward to during your time at the Olympics?
The Opening Ceremonies and celebrating with my family and friends after the competition is over. I have about 20 family members and friends going over to watch, and without their support there is no way I would be competing in London. A win for me is a win for all of them, too.
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